Durafiber closing hits town pocketbook; claims 220 jobs

    WINNSBORO – Durafiber Technologies announced last week that it would close its plant in Winnsboro’s mill village if it can’t find a buyer for the plant by Sept. 11.

The company said a total of 220 employees who work at the Fairfield plant will be affected by the closing. Another 580 employees in plant closings in Salisbury and Shelby, N.C. will be effected.

Looking at the financial effect the plant closing will have on the Town of Winnsboro utilities, Town Manager Don Wood said in the finance meeting Tuesday evening that, “the news is not good, but it’s not devastating. They’re still pursuing a buyer, but it’s highly unlikely,” Wood said.

“We’re looking at anywhere from $400,000 to $441,000 in lost revenue per year,” Tripp Peak, Director of Gas, Water and Sewer Utilities for the Town said during the meeting. “The gas is going to be the hardest hit at around $256,247. They’re about half our summertime load, so at this time of the year, half our gas revenue comes from Durafiber,” Peak said.

“They’re water consumption varies, but we’re looking at anywhere from $125,000 to $158,000 in lost revenue. They use very little sewer, around $26,000 a year,” he said.

But Wood and Peak said there were some possible solutions to the revenue loss, including selling off some of Winnsboro’s gas capacity which would generate $96,000 to $102,000 savings per year. Peak said the Town is locked into a capacity contract until the year 2015, but can sell surplus gas on the market.

The Town is also looking to expand its gas customer base by 300 customers which would generate about $360,000 in gas sales revenue and $58,000 in demand charge revenue. Peak said the Town has the gas rights to serve all of Fairfield County.

“We talk about lost revenue…I assume that’s not synonomous with profit, and my question is, we might lose that much revenue, but we also lose the cost of the gas and the water and electricity, so what is the bottom line of what it’s really going to cost us?” Mayor Roger Gaddy asked.

The Town’s Finance Director, Kathy Belton, said the loss would be about $250,000.

Durafiber said in a press release that it is taking steps to close the plants following a series of “initiatives to lower production costs in response to increased competition in the textile industry, as well as a thorough review of strategic alternatives, including potential asset sales.”

Headquartered in the Charlotte suburb of Huntersville, Durafiber has international operations in France, Germany, and Mexico which the company said would continue to operate as usual.

“While today’s announcement is a difficult one to make, increased labor, energy, transportation and raw material costs — in addition to continued market pressures — have strained Durafiber’s finances to a point that is no longer sustainable,” Durafiber’s CEO Frank Papa said in the press release.

“Our team will work diligently to ensure a smooth transition for our employees, customers and suppliers during the next 60 days, even as we continue to pursue strategic alternatives to keep these plants open.”

The Winnsboro plant, located at 199 Maple St., was acquired from Invista in March 2008. The plant produces industrial polyester tire fabric.

Built in 1898, the Winnsboro plant is located on 45 acres in the heart of the mill village, and has 473,000 square feet of manufacturing area.

DuraFiber is a global supplier of high-tenacity polyester fibers and fabrics, Nylon-6, engineered fabrics, sewing thread fibers and advanced materials for consumer and industrial applications, according to the press release.